Sometimes a button-down, pin-tucked patrol uniform isn’t the best option for the day. Maybe you’re working hot weather duty at the county fair, training at the range, or just need to dress down a bit but still look sharp. Your uniform should make you look good. Crisp, clean, credible. And it needs to work with everything where you need it. What options do you have?
One great alternative a lot of departments are moving toward is the duty polo. Sharper than the typical off-the-shelf polo you’ll find at a retail store, a duty polo offers many of the same functions of a uniform shirt but in a relaxed yet professional fit that lets you move and keeps you cooler during those hot weather activities.
What should you look for when choosing a polo that works best for you?
Off-the-shelf polos are not designed for the unique needs of law enforcement. They may be great for golf outings or casual day at the office, but if you’re like most officers, a large portion of your day is spent away from the station and not on a golf course. You need a polo that fits the challenges of your daily routine.
Good duty polos have some of the same functional features as your button-down patrol shirt, such as pen channels on the arm, reinforced microphone slots on the shoulders, and a sunglass/bodycam loop on the front.
Polo weather is hot weather and you’ll be sweating – a lot. So, the polo should be moisture wicking to keep you cool and dry. Moisture-wicking fabrics pull sweat away from your skin and allow it to evaporate, leaving you cooler and your shirt free of ugly sweat marks. While cotton might seem cooler because it tends to be lightweight, synthetic materials such as polyester and poly/cotton blends are much better than natural fibers alone at wicking moisture because the synthetic fiber spreads the moisture across a wider area, exposing it to more sunlight and therefore better evaporation.
Synthetic materials also tend to hold their shape longer over continuous wear and washings, keeping shirts looking more professional as they’re worn over time. Longer lasting means less spending on new shirts.
To reduce that dreaded on-duty stink, look for shirts with antimicrobial fiber or treatment. Sweat doesn’t stink on its own, but when it mixes with bacteria and other elements outside your body, that’s when you start to smell not so great.
The first thing the public sees on your polo is the collar because it’s right beneath your face. It needs to look good. A good patrol polo collar should lie smoothly with no upturned corners and accommodate a badge holder chain underneath. Typically, the collar tabs stay put via either stiff stays sewn into the collar or a discrete button underneath each tab to prevent blowing in the wind.
From patrol activities to special assignments, duty polos are often worn in harsh environments. They have to endure various conditions, including wear under or over body armor. The fabric needs to hold up against all these challenges.
Check how well the material resists snags. For instance, what happens if you accidentally rub the hook side of the hook and loop closure of your armor against the body or sleeve of the polo? Does it snag or pull? What if you bump up against a brick wall you’re using for cover?
What about laundering? Does the material pill up after repeated washes?
Just like your more formal patrol uniform shirt, your polo needs to stay tucked for two reasons: it looks more professional and you’ll likely wear a duty belt with it. Dedicated patrol polos are often longer, so they stay tucked more easily, avoiding the awkward and potentially hazardous need to re-tuck your shirt just because you stood or sat down.
Whatever duty assignment you work, make sure the polo you wear is the polo you need.